The Institute for Quantitative and Theoretical Biology is devoted to develop novel theoretical concepts and mathematical models of biological systems. With our research we aim to complement and support the experimental biology by developing theories that provide a framework in which new experimental findings can be interpreted and placed in a more general context.
Central research topics of our institute are photosynthesis and metabolism of photosynthetic organisms. We investigate the question how plants and unicellular algae acclimate to changing environmental conditions and we aim to exploit this knowledge for an efficient and large-scale cultivation of microalgae. In close collaboration with experimental colleagues, we investigate these questions with mathematical models, which are designed to describe the dynamic acclimation processes, such as “non-photochemical quenching” and “state transitions”. We employ these models to identify limiting factors and to predict the effect of external perturbations (either environmental or genetic). Comparison with experiments then leads to a deeper understanding of the system and to more general theoretical concepts. A further focus of our research is the development of mathematical models of secondary metabolism in plants and microalgae, especially with industrial applications in mind. We develop models describing the dynamics of biosynthetic pathways of interesting secondary metabolites and investigate, in close collaboration with experimental colleagues, how the yield of industrially and economically interesting chemicals can be optimised. At present, we investigate the synthesis of starch, lipids, and glucosinolates in three different projects. These topics are closely connected to the activities of our group, in which we aim to develop novel theoretical concepts. Recently, we have demonstrated that polymer biochemistry can be described by the language of statistical thermodynamics and have thus created a completely novel link between two rather unrelated disciplines. These activities are also currently in the focus of our research.
In modern biology theoretical and computational analyses are becoming increasingly important in order to interpret and understand the multitude of new quantitative data. With our expertise in theory and model building we are potential partners for a large number of experimental groups, in order to develop models in interdisciplinary collaborations, which help us to deepen our understanding of biological systems and eventually allow for novel predictions how the system reacts to perturbations. Such models present a basis to develop economically viable technological processes in a targeted way.
Systems Engineering: We contribute expertise to support the development of products and processes in bio-economy with model-assisted methods.
Microbial and molecular transformation: By modelling complex metabolic networks we support interdisciplinary projects which aim to exploit the synthesising capacity of plans and microbes in order to bio-synthesise valuable products in a sustainable way.